Questions over £4 million grant to Bernie Grant centre

It looks as if Ken Livingstone’s chickens are coming home to roost. Not only are there police investigations now into six different grants made by Ken & co in City Hall and the London Development Agency (LDA) but we also have a damning report into a series of major grants – including £4 million which was given to the Bernie Grant centre in Tottenham.

These grants total £18.5 million – the sort of sums you would have though would have been carefully looked after! – and the report has found serious flaws in the controls put into place (or rather, not put into place) to ensure the money was spent properly.

Locally, the issue of financing the Bernie Grant Centre has been a long, and rather sorry, saga – there have been lots of issues to question, but whenever someone has spoken up, Labour’s blinkers have come down and they’ve assumed any questioning must some how be a secret plot to axe the centre and that anything and everything they are doing is perfect (as in this case back in 2004).

Well no – when there are doubts over money, it’s our duty to ask searching questions to ensure money is spent properly and effectively.

My colleague Dee Doocey – one of the Liberal Democrats on the GLA – put it very well:

Deloitte’s second – and completely independent – report vindicates the committee’s serious concerns about the processes used by the LDA to manage and monitor cultural projects it funds … It is very clear that the LDA has mismanaged public funds.

Ken’s response? A rather weak quip about how you don’t ask accountants to understand the value of a piece of art (because these grants were all cultural related) – which must misses the point. Just because the money is going on a piece of art or on a pet project of Labour it doesn’t mean you can abandon proper financial controls and scrutiny.

As for the Bernie Grant Centre case – let’s hope there were proper controls at the other end even if Ken Livingstone and the LDA didn’t take proper care of the money when they were sending it out.